Ditch the Opal card: you can now travel on ferries and light rail with your Amex, Mastercard or Visa

Commuters travelling on Sydney Ferries and the Inner West Light Rail can now leave their Opal card at home and instead tap on with their credit card, mobile wallet, smartwatch or other contactless payment devices.

Austin Huntsdale, Vice President Consumer Cards, American Express and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance

Any American Express, Mastercard or Visa card with contactless technology enabled can now be used to tap on and off on select public transport in Sydney, after being trialled exclusively with Mastercard payments on the Manly Ferry.

According to Mastercard, during this trial more than 15,000 tap-and-go fare payments were made by card holders from more than 42 countries.

Richard Wormald, Mastercard Division President for Australasia said the trial “has been a great success and demonstrates how we can apply and adapt technology to simplify customer experiences. We are looking forward to rolling out similar solutions in other states, and making Australian cities more connected.”

Card holders can use their plastic as an alternative to a single Adult Opal trip on transport services running to 57 locations across the city, including Manly, Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, the International Convention Centre, Star Casino and Sydney Fish Markets.

“The integration of contactless transport payments into the Opal ticketing system makes the purchasing of one-off fares quick, easy and seamless, providing choice and convenience to customers,” said NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

American Express welcomed the change, and pointed out that both Sydney residents and visitors to the city would benefit from the flexible payment options.

“This is the perfect solution if you’re a regular commuter who has left their Opal card at home. Similarly, visitors to the city who don’t have an Opal card but have an American Express card issued in Australia or overseas can start their journey without fuss,” said Austin Huntsdale, Vice President Consumer Cards, American Express.

By Amex’s count, almost 60% of Australians use contactless payments and one in six use mobile wallets.

Contactless payments also account for a whopping 92% of Visa's domestic face-to-face transactions in Australia these days, which means the option to use these payment methods on their daily commute will likely be a popular one.

“Australians have a keen appetite for new ways to pay, including via smartphones and wearables, both of which can now also be used to pay for public transport," said Axel Boye-Moller, Visa Head of Product for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.

"Recent Visa research found 8 in 10 people would be comfortable using a smartphone for every day payments and 23% of Australians would likely use a smartwatch or other wearable for everyday payments, if they had one."

However, the bad news is Opal benefits such as travel caps and discounted fares after a number of trips in a week don’t apply when using contactless payments.

Tips for tapping on and off with your credit card

  • If you usually have Child, Concession or Seniors travel concession, you should stick to your Opal card for now. Contactless payments at the moment are only available for Adult prices.
  • If you’re travelling with more than one person, you can’t all tap on with the same piece of plastic - it’s one tap on per card.
  • Be sure to separate the card you’re using from other cards in your wallet, so the right one is charged.
  • If you’re using a digital wallet or payment technology to pay your fare, make sure you’ve selected the right card.
  • Tap on before you board the ferry or light rail, just as you would with an opal card. When you tap off again, be sure you’ve selected the same card you tapped on with.
  • Decided not to travel after all? Tap off again at the same tram stop within 15 minutes or at the same wharf within 30 minutes and the payment will be reversed, just like with an Opal card.

Need a piece of plastic so you can start making contactless payments on your morning commute? Head over to our credit card comparison page to find the right fit for your wallet.